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Indonesian Hiking in the Bag

Farah Fitriani Faruq
Farah Fitriani Faruq
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Indonesian Hiking in the Bag
Indonesian Hiking in the Bag
[The Jakarta Globe]: For anyone looking for a challenge in the New Year, here’s a record to beat: British hiker Daniel Quinn climbed 14 mountains in Indonesia last year, bringing his total number of conquered peaks to 49 since he arrived here three years ago — and that’s not including the 21 hills, volcanoes and other peaks he attempted along the way. His motivation? To upload information on Indonesia’s lesser-known hiking spots to the Web site Gunung Bagging (gunungbagging.com), started by Quinn and fellow hiker Andy Dean in 2009. The name comes from the century-old British tradition of “mountain bagging” (gunung is the Indonesian word for mountain), whereby hikers challenge one another to conquer a checklist of peaks categorized by topographic prominence. It is called “bagging” because each peak conquered is another one “in the bag” for the hiker. The tradition started with Sir Hugh Munro’s 1891 list of 915-meter plus peaks in the British Isles, known as the “Munros,” and spread to the creation of a list of worldwide “Ultras,” mountains with a minimum 1,500-meter elevation drop on all sides. Indonesia doesn’t have too many Ultras, but there are plenty of peaks worth bagging in the mountainous archipelago. That’s why Quinn, 30, an English teacher working in Jakarta, and Dean, 34, a geographic information systems specialist working in Bogor, decided to establish the Gunung Bagging Web site — to bring the British hiking tradition to Indonesia, and the hiking possibilities of Indonesia to the world. The bagging list for Indonesia centers on the “Ribus” — peaks of at least one “ribu” (thousand) meters in topographic prominence — and was compiled by Quinn and Dean after they met on a hike up Gunung Lawu in East Java. On the Web site, Gunung Lawu falls into the category of “Sangat Tinggi” (“Very High”), at a height of over 3,000 meters, but the accompanying information describes it as “a great hike for those new to hiking in Indonesia.” So how hard can the Ribus be? “They can be quite tough,” Quinn says. “Like following some local guys hacking your way through, and there’s no trail, and you’re falling all over the place.” Not to mention the slight problems of muddy tracks, no promise of a view at the top, and some very nasty strains of local stinging nettle. But the greatest challenge of all, Quinn says, is finding information on the peaks in the first place. “Indonesia really should be the No. 1 hiking destination in Southeast Asia,” he says. “It really is tremendous, but the infrastructure is not really there, and they don’t seem to be very good at promoting themselves, either.” While other world-class hiking destinations provide maps, experienced guides, campsites and toilet facilities, Indonesia’s hiking sites are notoriously inaccessible and overgrown, or poorly maintained and full of litter. Existing groups in Indonesia, such as the highly popular Java Lava (javalavaindonesia.multiply.com) volcano-climbing group and other local hiking communities, do provide fairly comprehensive information on the most popular peaks in the archipelago. But for hikers who want to explore further, the trail of information soon runs out. Outside of the usual tourist trails, information on Indonesia’s lesser-known peaks is almost impossible to find, and the intrepid hikers who attempt them have only local guides to rely on, some of whom have never even walked the trails themselves. That’s where Quinn and Dean come in, going where no hiker has ever gone before and bringing back information for others hoping to explore Indonesian mountains off the beaten track. The Gunung Bagging Web site contains a list of Indonesia’s 226 Ribus, including a list of 50 Ribus under the category “Belum Bagged” (“Not Yet Bagged”). For the mountains that have been bagged, Quinn and Dean provide GPS tracks, contact details for reliable local guides and trekking advice to consider before attempting some of the more dangerous peaks. Aside from the Ribus, the pair also provide information on a list of interesting hikes that don’t fall under the Ribu category, which they call the “Spesials.” These include peaks of geographical or historical interest, or those that only just fall short of Ribu status. Dean himself has conquered 27 Ribus, 25 of those with his wife Gill. He says the spirit of adventure and the reward of spectacular views is what drives him to break new ground in Indonesia’s mountain ranges. “For anyone who likes hiking and adventure travel, Indonesia is hard to beat,” he says. “Some of the things that make travel and hiking frustrating in Indonesia also make the travel so interesting.” Dean was hooked on hiking in Indonesia after he and his wife enjoyed a stunning view from the summit of Gunung Rinjani in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, during a full moon. But he says that one of his most memorable hikes in Indonesia was up Gunung Tambora on the neighboring island of Sumbawa. “The hike had everything: Porters who had never hiked the mountain and couldn’t carry our bags, perfect weather, camping on the crater rim, almost getting blown off the rim by the wind and a volcanic sandstorm in the night, views of Rinjani on Lombok,” he recalls fondly. As for Quinn, he’ll always remember taking a weekend hiking trip to Ambon in Maluku. Working full-time in Jakarta, Quinn had limited time to add Ribus to his list. Determined to reach Ambon’s highest point over the course of a weekend, he took a 1 a.m. flight from Jakarta on a Saturday, met up with a local guide to climb the highest mountain at 10 p.m. that night, and was back in Jakarta by 6 p.m. on Sunday night. “So, stupid things can be done, it just depends how stupid you are, I suppose,” he says with a laugh. Quinn says he has tried to contact national tourism authorities in Jakarta many times about the Web site, but has never received more than recognition of receipt for his e-mails. For those wishing to follow in the footsteps of the Gunung Bagging trailblazers, all the information is there on the Web site. Like-minded enthusiasts are also encouraged to contribute their own entries, and many have provided detailed accounts of their hiking escapades. A handful of contributors have even made it onto the Web site’s “Hall of Fame,” also titled “Gunung Bragging,” but Quinn still tops the list, followed by Andy and Gill Dean. Quinn says that for him, the driving factor is still the urge to provide useful information on new frontiers. “Once I put up information on something, it’s great. Especially when there is really no information on the Internet about it,” he says. “Then I think I’m really doing something new here.” For more information, visit www.gunungbagging.com

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